Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Dora Siliya says the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) is still the most watched television channel in Zambia.

Debating a notice of motion to adopt the Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee, appointed to scrutinize the presidential appointment of William Boli Nyirenda, Irene Mwezi Kunda and Andrew Mumba to serve as members of the Judicial Complaints Commission; Dr Dickson Chellah Sichembe to serve as Auditor-General and the ministerial appointment of Simon Bota, Dr Sarah Silombe Kaulule, Patricia Emma Mwase, Mary Mulenga and Yambayamba Kazilimani to serve as directors of the ZNBC Board, Siliya said about 5.2 million people countrywide were still watching ZNBC, making it the most watched television channel in the country.

“I believe that numbers don’t lie and we keep hearing this statement that ZNBC being boring, that people are not watching ZNBC and so on and so forth. Mr Speaker, the numbers we have is that ZNBC, especially television, is the most watched in this country! And that the numbers are that ZNBC is watched by over 640,000 households. Numbers don’t lie; almost six million people it is about 5.2 million people. The next, which is Prime TV, is watched by only 160,000 households,” Siliya argued.

“It is important that we have figures when making statements about these issues. ZNBC continues to remain the most popular television because of its access in the nation. And, indeed, ZNBC is a public broadcaster carrying a public signal and in that sense, the challenges it is having right now are not unique because of new technology and convergence of technology, especially in terms of linear programming. There has been disruption to media and competition so the challenges of ZNBC, as a public broadcaster, are by no means unique to ZNBC.”

And justifying why government decided to sponsor ZNBC’s Sunday Interview programme to air on Prime TV, Siliya insisted that it was normal for government to use private stations to disseminate information, and share revenue in the process.

“It is our belief that the addition to the existing board of members being appointed today (Wednesday), that they will bring new leadership and ideas to ZNBC, so that it can continue to be self-sustaining and address the challenges that it is going through. I wish to make particular reference to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, and in particular, government itself: government is not just about ZNBC in terms of media, government is responsible for media in Zambia and so when government makes a choice to engage with the citizens through Prime TV and Diamond TV or Hot FM or any other platform for that matter, it is because it does not want to leave anyone behind,” said Siliya.

“And since government is the biggest player in this sector, it will also be normal that the private sector are looking for government to participate on their platforms so that they can also share in the revenues from government. So, it is very normal to see government officials on Prime TV, on Diamond TV and that must not continue to be used for political purposes. I said numbers don’t lie! ZNBC continues to be the largest provider of television services in the country. Otherwise, why would we have people in this House questioning, asking and clamouring…wanting to be on ZNBC? Mr Speaker, I thought that I should make those few issues a bit more clear so that we do not continue to have on this floor people misleading the nation about the popularity of ZNBC. In fact, ZNBC is doing so well, Mr Speaker, it is probably why it is raining very well in the PF strongholds! And I wonder whom God wants to punish in areas where it is not raining.”

But debating earlier, Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu argued that Zambians had stopped watching ZNBC due to its failure to balance coverage on the political stage.

“ZNBC is supposed to be a national broadcaster; it is supposed to be an institution that is non-partisan, an institution that is supposed to serve the interests of Zambians. Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, this particular institution that is being serviced by tax payers has become an instrument of the PF party in government! Whenever you tune to ZNBC any day, the issues that are being raised are inclined to serve the party in government. That is not how it is supposed to be. ZNBC should emulate reputable public broadcasters that are serving the interests of the people in certain countries. I have examples, in Africa; we have the South African Broadcasting Corporation, (SABC) which operates independently. They even cover those views who are opposed to the government. When there are elections, the opposition parties are covered fairly by the SABC. They are even critical of the Head of State of South Africa something, which cannot be done here,” lamented Mwiimbu.

“As I said, ZNBC is supposed to be a national broadcaster, unfortunately, it isn’t. And as a result of its bias, Mr Speaker, most of the Zambians who are able, are no longer listening or viewing ZNBC. As a result, even the government, themselves, they have realized that the reputation of ZNBC has gone down, hence now they are using private TV stations and radio stations to disseminate government information. That is what has happened. They are spending money on these private TV stations because they have realized that the viewership in the private TV stations and radio stations has been increased and ZNBC has gown down.”

Meanwhile, all the appointments were ratified by Parliament.